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Pakistan bracing for polio travel restrictions

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan scrambled Tuesday to meet new international travel restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of polio, including setting up vaccination points at all airports, officials said.

The World Health Organization has declared the spread of polio an international public health emergency and identified Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon as having allowed the virus to spread beyond their borders. It recommended that those three governments require citizens to obtain a certificate proving they have been vaccinated for polio before traveling abroad.

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The restrictions will be a heavy burden, but Pakistan is convening emergency meetings and implementing measures such as setting up desks for polio vaccinations at all airports to comply with them, health minister Saira Afzal Tarar told the private Dawn TV station.

‘‘It is an extraordinary situation,’’ she said.

Another daunting task is to determine how much vaccine would be required for thousands of people traveling abroad from Pakistan on a daily basis, she said. The authorities have been asked to compile the data as soon as possible, she said, and the Pakistani military was already coordinating with civilian authorities to help secure health workers in dangerous areas.

The vast majority of new polio cases are in Pakistan, a country that an independent monitoring board set up by the WHO has called ‘‘a powder keg that could ignite widespread polio transmission.’’ The disease is largely found in the northwest, where Islamic militants make it difficult to reach children for vaccination and spread propaganda claiming the vaccine makes boys sterile.

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